Are you driven by calling or ego?e are designed to use both. Your calling and ego each play important roles in your life, but neither of them mean anything on their own.
Calling without ego
Calling is surprisingly easy to figure out, and most of us know what it is when we take a moment to reflect. Yet when I was doing therapy full time, many of my clients would use ‘not knowing their calling’ as an excuse to stop moving forward. It pointed to a deeper problem: they were all passionate about something that stirred their souls, but they didn’t believe in themselves.
This is calling without ego–an elegant sea-faring ship with no engine or sails. It’s the dream of going somewhere without the confidence to believe you have what it takes to get there. Too many of us live haunted by this mismatch as our lives tick by–positive dreams of lasting impact and fulfillment vastly outweighed by negative self-worth and a profound lack of grit and gumption.
No hero, inventor, thought leader, general, or professional athlete has ever made history with good intentions but too little self-worth to do something about it. As Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
Ego without calling
Ego is often stigmatized negatively, and without calling steering you towards making ego meaningful, it is negative. The ego is fueled by the fear of being perceived as unworthy, or actually being unworthy. It desires results–indicators of status and success–over the more fulfilling aspects of story and process that come from calling.
Ego without calling is a beautiful ship with plenty of power, but no rudder guiding it towards what matters. The ego targets insecurities or chinks in the armor and aims to hide how fragile it really is. It’s the same brand of low self-esteem as those with high calling and low ego, but with a Band-Aid made out of false confidence to over-compensate for it.
Many of us have ego forced upon us by the expectations of our communities or families. Stature, reputation, and success are communicated most effectively by the things we can see most easily–BMW’s, iEverything, impressive LinkedIn job descriptions. And it’s incredible how many callings get pushed aside in the pursuit of symbols that we must have to reinforce what we “should” or “ought to” do in the eyes of others.
This is just as common as calling without ego, but far more noticeable. It’s the Sharks in Shark Tank–money and the luxury it provides is everything, and they’re proud of it. It’s the 22 year old cruising around in his new Lexus after a promotion at the job he hates, but whose ego won’t let him fail.
It’s a powerful ship pointed in the wrong direction–an ego without a calling.
Wholeness = calling and ego working together
Think Elon Musk. The man was born to think, invent, create, and test–and he has enough ego to fail his way into the best version of his calling. He seeks nothing besides excellence at what matters, and shrugs off what doesn’t.
Think Bob Marley. He said “The people who are trying to make the world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?” Forget about whether you like Reggae or not, Marley had a cause and used his very vulnerable musical calling to spread positivity until the day he died.
When calling and ego collide in the same space, the result is practically unstoppable. It’s a ship with a reliable rudder towards what matters, and a strong engine to move it forward. It’s the passion for something worthwhile combined with the relentless grit and self-belief to get it done. When you align your ego and calling you create a lasting legacy that impacts where we’re going as people–a stepping stone of progress.
This post was originally published in October 2015 on Inc.com. TheYoungProfessionalGroup.com takes no credit for the work of the author.